Friday, July 13, 2007


First of all, I would like to thank everyone who sent me their prayers, both here and in private. I probably won't manage to thank each of you personally, but you have no idea how much it has meant to me to have so many people who have never even seen me face to face offer their total support. It has been heart warming and sincere.

This will surely be one of my most poorly written posts. But I don't care. My thoughts are cluttered and confused, and I think I just need to give in to a good old fashioned rant (something I try not to do in this blog usually...).

My father-in-law's name was Santino. This is also my youngest son's middle name. My youngest was his grandfather's favorite grandchild, and he never made a secret of that. He loved all of his grandchildren fiercely, but Dana just has that special something that let him see his own reflection. Dana is bull-headed and unwavering, as was my father-in-law. He has an infinite talent for driving you crazy with his ironclad, don't mess with me character, as did my father-in-law. Dana is also incredibly loveable and sincere, as was Santino. When Dana was born in my house in Italy, Santino was the first person to come into my bedroom and offer me roses cut from his own garden. He was a man of maddeningly few words, and when he spoke, he thundered. Santino grew up during World War Two, and was one of twelve brothers. He remembered well what it felt like to be hungry, really hungry, and never left a morsel on his own plate, or anyone else's. He was dynamic and very physical, and had the same large, burly hands that my husband has, and that Dana will surely have one day. Santino passed away on Dana's birthday.

He died at home in his own bed. I am so deeply grateful for that, since he harbored an intense fear of a suffering death. He never had to live dependent on others, or infirm, or as half a man, which was a gift for a spirit like his.

My husband had the unexpected gift of spending the last 4 days before he left Italy once again living in his parent's home, since our home was prepared for the tenant who will soon be moving there. He passed those days by his father's side, repairing the hail netting over the garden in the mountains and cleaning out the garage in his childhood home to make space for our car. My husband had not had such concentrated quality time with his father for years, since usually his bratty wife and clinging children take up all of his time and energy. He remembers the last sight he had of his father waving goodbye from his bedroom window, telling him to stand tall.

That was only a week ago.

And now on to me. I am ashamed deeply of one thing, and I will confess it here. I am glad that my husband and children are not in Italy now. MacGyver has decided to go back to Italy on August 1st for 10 days to sort through his father's life with his mother and sisters, and at the bidding of his entire family he did not try to make it back for the funeral. For those of you who know what an Italian Catholic funeral is like, you know why I am selfishly glad not to be there. The body of the deceased is kept in an open casket in the home, which is open for visitors 24 hours a day until the funeral ceremony. People come and stand around this body that was once the person they knew. The widow and family are forced to live with this body for 2-3 days. The coffin is then nailed shut right there in that same room, and then taken to the church for the mass, and finally to the cemetery. I know many people say this type of mourning allows for more closure, more confirmation of death. But I am here to tell you that that's pure bullshit. It's horrible, macabre and long-suffering. I am doing my best not to imagine my sweet mother-in-law forced to stay by that body. I am doing my best not to imagine the reason they decided to close the casket today, instead of tomorrow, since it's so hot in Italy right now.

My dear husband will remember his papa and my children will remember their nonno booming and thundering. Working in the garden, walking in the mountains, bottling homegrown wine and carving wooden canes.

I will remember his most tender moment in all the time I knew him, bringing roses to my bed to welcome his favorite grandson into the world.


anno said...

Jennifer, this is an amazing tribute, and the image of this remarkable man bringing you roses after Dana's birth is beautiful and heart-rending. Thanks so much for posting this -- it's good to know that MacGyver is still home with you. You do have a very special family.

Brillig said...

I'm glad MacGyver stayed home too, though I'm sure he's pretty torn right now. But you have each other to cling to, and from the snippets about your relationship that you've shared here, I'm sure you're both relieved to be together right now.

Everything about this post is so beautiful. I particularly love the way you describe how Santino and your husband last saw each other, his father reminding him to "stand tall." I'm glad that the universe arranged for them to spend that time together before he left.

My heart is with you and your family while you trudge through this together. And I'm with Anno--you do have a very special family.

Carol said...

Jennifer, this is one of your most poignant, beautiful, heartfelt and well-written posts. I can just feel your sorrow -- and your confession is completely understandable! I'd feel the same way.

I'm glad your husband had some real quality time with his dad before he died. That will always be important.

My thoughts are with you.


Jenn in Holland said...

Tender and poignant and exceptionally beautiful Jennifer.
What a treasure tribute for this man.
I can't say more through the tears right now.
Just wow. And indeed we are here for you. This road is long but you can trust that we will be here for all of you all along the way.

sognatrice said...

Beautiful and touching, and I, too, am typing through tears.

I completely agree with you on the Italian Catholic funeral rites; I thought the viewing/wake in America was bad enough (I've never needed that for closure either, and in fact, I think it's hurt my grieving process), but in Italy it's just unbearable. Down here in the summer, at least, they speed up the process and often have everything happen in the same day because of the heat; it's terrible to say, but it's a true blessing, IMHO, for families to lose loved ones in the warmer months.

Warm thoughts continue to come to your way.

Cate said...

I am so sorry for your loss, Jennifer. Your father in law sounds like he was a wonderful man.

Jennifer said...

This is was a beautifully written tribute and goodbye and you have nothing to be ashamed of.

I often wonder if those of us most in touch with life and the universe decide to go when we do. Again, I wonder.

I am so sorry for your family's loss and I will continue to keep you in my thoughts.

Stand tall.

Gunfighter said...

Resdt in peace Santino... you get a bead on my chain tonight.

Jen said...

This is a beautiful tribute, and something that MacGuyver's family might enjoy, translated.
I wrote something quite a while ago about my lovely MIL who succumbed mentally to Alzheimer's, and I know it's brought my husband some comfort over time.
I'm terribly sorry for what you're all going through. Anno recommended your blog and I apologize for stumbling in at this very personal time.

Rebecca said...

I'm glad your husband can be with you now Jennifer.

And wow, what a magic connection between Dana and his grandad...I'm sure Dana will treasure all the memories.

Still thinking of you and how sad your family must be right now.....nothing to offer except lots of virtual hugs. ((()))

take care

Fourier Analyst said...

If magic can be found in sorrow, then you have achieved it my friend. Lovely thoughts expressed so poignantly with such tenderness. I know it is hard. But knowing what we miss helps us treasure what we have. Strength and blessings to you. Safe journey to MacGyver. Thought hugs to the little ones.

Omega Mum said...

Came here via Brillig. Just wanted to say how wonderful for you to have such a terrific relationship with your inlaws - sadly, quite unusual. He sounds a remarkable man. I totally agree with you about the funeral - feels like wallowing in death rather than celebrating life.